A UK Hospital system announced it has cancelled all planned operations and outpatient appointments, while diverting trauma patients to nearby hospitals following a computer virus outbreak.
According to reports, the National Health Service’s (NHS) Lincolnshire and Goole trust said a virus infected its electronic systems on Sunday, October 30.
In a statement posted on its website, the NHS said it made the decision, following expert advice, to shut down the majority of its systems in an effort to isolate and destroy the virus.
“Our main priority is patient safety,” Dr. Karen Dunderdale, the trust’s deputy chief executive and director of operations, told BBC News.
“All adult patients should presume their appointment/procedure has been cancelled unless they are contacted. Those who turn up will be turned away,” said Dr. Dunderdale.
Meanwhile, the trust added that inpatients will continue to be cared for and discharged as soon as they are medically fit. Major trauma cases will continue to be diverted to neighboring hospitals, as will high-risk women in labor, it noted.
As of this writing, an update on the trust website says the majority of its electronic systems are now back up and running.
“We are hoping it will be business as normal tomorrow but please visit the website after 5pm today to ensure we have not had to make further cancellations,” read the notice.
Security journalist and investigative reporter Brian Krebs says the virus that infected NHS systems is likely an infestation of ransomware:
“Ransomware scours an infected computer for documents, audio files, pictures and other things likely to be of value to the system’s owner, and then encrypts that data with very powerful encryption software. Most ransomware variants also scour the local network for other systems or network shares to infect. Victims usually can only get their files back after paying a specified ransom demand using a virtual currency, such as Bitcoin,” explained Krebs in a blog post.
Meanwhile, experts have warned ransomware attacks are on the rise, with a staggering 88 percent of infections targeting the healthcare industry.
The incident follows an announcement made by the UK government on November 1, where it revealed plans to spend £1.9 billion on improving the country’s cybersecurity.
The investment would help set up automatic defenses designed to help protect ordinary citizens and businesses against digital attacks, as well as educate a new generation of IT security professionals.